"It happened so fast. Words don't go with this..."
Manuscript notes: Chapter written 9/25/97, Kansas City, MO. Margin notes include, "Morning."
And so it goes… I don't really know how the McGee family really received the news of Frank's death. But I sat in the front room of McGee's Inn next to the fireplace with the rosewood pillars, stared out the window at Daley Avenue, and imagined it.
There is so much left unsaid, unknown. Where are all the McGee medals? When a Canadian soldier was killed in battle, there were a battery of medals awarded. The McGees lost two sons, and another was wounded in action. Where have all the medals gone? No one in the family seems to know. Two-eyed Frank did not have them. D'Arcy McGee of B.C. did not have them, no one seems to have them.
And Kinnear…I added the last section just recently, as an afterthought. A little twist. One last attempt at conveying the hopelessness of the trenches. Andrew Kinnear was a real young man from Sackville, New Brunswick, but I could locate no family by that name still living in the area. And Andrew Kinnear fought at the Somme, in the battle of Courcelette, with Frank McGee. Whether he ever knew him, saw him, talked to him, I have no idea. My reconstruction of McGee's death is fabricated, based on the historical record that he indeed arrived at the Sugar Factory line at noon on September 16, 1916, and shortly thereafter the position was shelled heavily by the Germans. It is possible that McGee was killed in some other manner, and then his body hit by artillery fire. It is unknown. But there is one thing I tried to convey by having Kinnear witnessing McGee's death: someone knew he had been killed. Many of the gravestones contain dates of death, 'Killed in Action 15/17 September, 1916' for instance. These men went into battle, and when the dust settled two days later, did not come out. But McGee's death was reported immediately, and relayed back to Canada within a week. Someone must have seen his death and reported it. He was not reported missing, he was reported killed. Who observed it, how it actually happened, and what happened to his body will probably never be known. As I stated earlier, an effort was made to remove slain officers from the field of battle. We know for certain McGee's body was not removed, but it is possible that it lies in one of the thousands of unmarked graves. It may also now be a part of the lazy fields that flow away from the Bapaume road toward the little brick village of Courcelette, France, close to the foundation stones of an ancient windmill.
NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND
Sorry to report the death of the Hon. Frank Charles McGee in Toronto on April 4. There was a full obit in the National Post (our new national daily) and will send you a copy. He was 73.
Len Kotylo gave me a video clip which the SIHR Toronto chapter produced for Rogers cable and it shows Frank McGee demonstrating the army eye test for THE Magee, who according to Jason Wilson in his new book, "Ireland, Hockey and The First World War," joined up in Kingston. That's probably taken from your paper, which he credits fully.
Wilson's work is scholarly and quite impressive. How's your McGee book coming? I assume you have a pic of McGee in his army uniform.
Hope you can fly into Toronto in May.
Of course, I hope people take the time to read through the list of Hall of Famers, and, more importantly, The War Graves of the British Empire. The story doesn't really end with Chapter 21. Yes, Andrew Kinnear was killed in action at Regina Trench. 'I'm thinking, did he have to drown them all, every last one of them? My father? Did he have to drown them all?' Every character in Kinnears group was a real soldier killed at the battle of Courcelette. I got their names and information from the booklet I stole from the Courcelette British Cemetery. I chose to use them all - and kill them all again - to shock the reader into an understanding of the senseless, futile, tragic loss of young life. A Dream Within a Dream, the poem Kinnear recited throughout the book, is one of my personal favorites. It was fun to incorporate it into a novel of my own.
And that's it. From jotting down 'They say I'm always nervous' to publication was about four years. I received my first copies of the book last week. It is so strange to hold in your hands a book you've spent so many hours, days, and months researching and writing, that until now had been a mangled pile of manuscript pages. A combination of exultation and revulsion. I am tired of it. I have read it forty times, there is nothing in it that surprises me, I can no longer make any objective judgments about it. I joke that I love the cover, but what lies in between I'm concerned about. At the same time there is a remarkable satisfaction, that I am lucky enough to have my words published at all.
As for this Companion, I think it was an interesting exercise. If you have followed it through to the end, I'd like to thank you for your interest, and I hope you enjoyed it. I have tried to convey the give and take between author and editor, the ups and downs of rejection and acceptance. I have been honest in revealing the working flaws, as well as the little successes along the way. I am concerned how it works for an actual reader. I'm unsure whether the additional information adds to the pleasure of reading the novel, or detracts by becoming intrusive, compromising the 'spell' of the imaginary world created in the book. It is an experiment.
It is done.
NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND
March 13, 2001
Mr. Bill Fitsell
Chairman, SIHR Publications Committee
I hereby nominate Don Reddick for the 2001 Brian McFarlane Research and Writing Award.
Don's first contribution to hockey history was his historical novel Dawson City Seven, published in 1993. This book received favourable reviews, including the one by Trent Frayne in the January 10, 1994 issue of Macleans. The work was very faithful to historical fact and sparked a resurgence of interest in one of Canada's most legendary sports stories. Because it was so well received, Don carried on with further research in the area of early hockey, especially in Ottawa and pertaining to Frank McGee. Don has visited Ottawa on several occasions to do research at the National Archives and at the Beechwood Cemetery, where several of McGee's teammates rest.
Don's two most recent pieces appear in Total Hockey, 2d ed.: "Dawson's Stanley Cup Challenge" and "The Death of Frank McGee." As you know, they are both adaptations of articles that first appeared in The Hockey Research Journal. Both articles are carefully researched and well written. They present accurate accounts of important subjects and tell readable stories.
I would especially draw attention to the Frank McGee piece. Frank McGee is a genuine Canadian sports hero. Being blind in one eye, scoring fourteen goals in one game, losing his life on the battlefield -- these are facts many people know about. But not very much else has been written about this remarkable man. Don adds to our understanding of McGee and his life. An outstanding example of his research is the account of McGee's medical examination at the time he enlisted. Don has seen the medical records and casts doubt on the veracity of the fabled right hand/left hand-over-the-eye trick that has been told so many times. Don has also spent many hours pouring over military records on file at the National Archives in order to piece together the circumstances of McGee's death in France in 1916. In fact, he has visited Canadian cemeteries in France to get a better feel for the subject. This research represents a significant and unique contribution to Canadian sports history.
Don Reddick would be a worthy recipient of the McFarlane award.
NOTE: Based on the research and writing of his novels Dawson City Seven and Killing Frank McGee, Don Reddick was awarded the Brian McFarlane Award by the Society for International Hockey Research in Montreal, Quebec on Saturday, May 19, 2001.